Fighting games are one of the hardest genres of games to get into.
Born in the arcades on their heyday, traditional fighting games (ie, not Smash Bros) require a lot of practice and knowledge of both the characters and their moves to get good at them.
The special moves in these games require relatively complex inputs that can twist your fingers in a knot. Trying to pull them off with a pair of Joy-Con is just going to make the whole experience harder than it needs to be.
A lot of pros recommend using a fighting stick to play fighting games instead of a gamepad. While I don´t agree that they are the only way to play, if you are serious about entering the competitive scene of a traditional fighting game, then you better start looking at this unique type of controller.
The problem with the arcade stick is that most of them are quite expensive. The Real Arcade Pro V, for example, is sold for a hundred and fifty dollars.
Cheaper knockoffs exist, but they tend to be, well, cheap. Their quality is quite low and they might break after just a few days of playtime.
If you want to get into fighting games, what is the solution? Is there a cheaper and more newbie friendly alternative?
Enter the N30 fighting stick.
The N30 is 8bitdo´s entry-level fighting stick. It doesn´t feature the level of customization or durability that its high-end competition boasts, but it´s still a quality product that does exactly what you expect, and it does it well.
This arcade stick is compatible with the Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, Android and even theRaspberry Pi.You can find it on sale for around 60 to 80 dollars. This might seem expensive, but remember that is cheaper than its alternatives. If you are still unconvinced about the price, keep in mind that it costs around the same (and even less) than a Pro Controller or new pair of Joy-Con, to put it in perspective. So, the N30 is a relatively cheap and accessible fighting stick, but is there more to it?
Features of the N30 Arcade Stick
Of the main advantages that this stick offers is that it works both wired and wireless. You can plug in the (included) USB cable and play as if it were any other stick.
You also can connect it wirelessly via Bluetooth. With a wireless connection, you have a greater degree of freedom in choosing how and where to play with the stick. Don´t worry, there isn't any noticeable lag when playing wirelessly.
This feature lets several sticks connect to the same console, as they don´t have to "fight" for the limited USB ports available (assuming that everyone has their stick, of course). For the Switch, a console already designed to be carried around and shared, this is a great advantage.
The battery is supposed to last around 18 hours on a 1 to 2 hour charge. This gives the N30 a great degree of autonomy to play as much as you want. If the battery does run out, you can plug-in the 3 meter USB cable directly and keep on playing. There is no reason to stop.
Of course, fighting games aren´t the only thing that the N30 excels at. While they are the focus, you can also use the arcade stick to play retro games. Arcade sticks emulate arcade cabinets, after all. 8-bit games are where they were born.
In this regard, the Virtual Console on the Nintendo Switch and the Retropie of the RasberryPi are great beneficiaries of the N30. They both offer a good number of titles to play in case you get bored of fighting games.
Ok, so, the N30 has a lot of good features, but it can´t all be good, right? What are the...
Drawbacks of the N30
The N30 is a lot cheaper than high-end fight sticks. This is mainly because it´s made out of cheaper materials. While they are still quite responsive and precise, they might feel less crisp and more *squashy* than the buttons of its competitors.
This is nothing that will take you out of the game, mind you, or give you a competitive disadvantage. However, if you are still uncomfortable with the components, you can try to mod the stick.
Modding an arcade stick means taking out some of its pieces and replacing them with others more suited to your liking. So...
...Can you do this with the N30?
You can swap 8bitdo´s parts and put Sanwa (another company) replacements in place. To do so, you can follow these instructions on IDW.
As you can see, it requires some dexterity and affinity with tools to mod the stick, but nothing too complicated. You won´t need to soldier anything...
...Unless you want to change the stick itself. That will take some soldiering.
Insofar as how easy this controller is to connect, it´s not quite simple, but not too complex either. The manual has all the instructions you need. If you are serious about getting into fighting games, then it should not be an obstacle that will stop you.
If you find that following the instructions doesn´t work and that the N30 remains unconnected, you might need to update its firmware. Again, it´s all in the manual.
The las drawback I find is something that will make veteran fighting game players roll their eyes. The N30 is a tad big, and very not portable at all.
Yeah, I know, who cares about the size of a fighting stick? But, when the stick itself is bigger than the console you play with (the Switch), it looks kind of weird. This is more aesthetics nitpicking than a proper gripe, so don´t worry about it.
The N30 is certainly light enough to be carried around, however, weighing 1.4 Kg (3 pounds).
8bitdo´s N30 is a pretty good arcade stick. It is cheap, reliable, and it works on a wide variety of platforms (but not the PlayStation or Xbox).
It´s a good alternative for people who are looking to learn to handle an arcade stick or are more "casual" about playing fighting/retro games. The qualities shine even more when purchased as a Nintendo Switch arcade stick rather than a PC one.
That said, It is not a perfect stick. If you persevere enough and become a "pro" player, odds are that you will eventually replace the N30 with one of the more expensive alternatives I mentioned at the beginning. But as an entry-level stick, it is quite good, especially at its prize.
And, if you want to know if the N30 goes on sale, join our mailing list!